10 August 2000 Edition

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Gildea backs Donegal community against ESB

A North Donegal environmentalist organisation, The Alternative to Pylons Group (ATP), last week became an organisation with which government Chief Whip Seamus Brennan should get up to speed.

ATP is opposing the ESB's plan to bulldoze a 110kv high voltage power line through one of the island's most unspoilt areas. The group wants the powerline buried - the ESB want it on pylons and poles.

ATP, which has strong community support in this Gaeltacht area, said that the visual impact of the poles and pylons will be horrific. There are also concerns, emanating from research in North America, that high voltage wires are associated with child leukaemia ``hotspots''.

The local Mountain Rescue Team are opposed saying that they will have difficulty landing a helicopter now in an area where they expect to be called out on rescues.

Up until last week, it looked as though ATP would have very little leverage on the semi-state company, which has apparently been given carte blanche by the government. That changed at a meeting of the group in the Gaeltacht village of Gortahork.

Independent TD Tom Gildea attended the ATP committee meeting. Gildea has a public ``shopping list'' for his continued support for the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition.

He went on record that the extra cost of burying the cable, estimated at £65m, is now formally on his shopping list. It is likely also to feature on Independent Fianna Fail TD Harry Blaney's wish list to Seamus Brennan.

The ESB, it is believed, have 16 proposed lines similar to the North Donegal one. If they get approval for these then, like a site with outline planning permission, it suddenly becomes a more marketable proposition for privatisation.

There is a lot at stake for the ESB on this one.

However, their privatisation price will not take precedence over the survival of this government. Should Brennan manage to come up with the extra cash for burying the cable, then this will be a remarkable victory for a local community and for all those who wish to protect the environment.

An Phoblacht
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